Dec 3, 2021 - News

Polk County releases Merle Hay Mall collateral

Illustration of two hands: one holding a hundred dollar bill, the other empty.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Polk County supervisors have released a lien against some of the property used as collateral to guarantee $3.9 million in taxpayer loans made to Merle Hay Mall in recent years.

Why it matters: The mall says the financial move is necessary to move forward with its plans to build a new $2.8 million Kohl's store at the site of the now-demolished Sears.

  • Taxpayer money is at greater risk for losses if the mall were to go bankrupt or out-of-business and liquidate.

Of note: The mall is current on all payments and is still required to repay the loans.

Driving the news: Bankers Trust would not lend the mall additional money for the Kohl's redevelopment unless it could become the first security lender on some of the property, Ralph Marasco, an assistant county attorney, told supervisors in a meeting last month.

  • He recommended county supervisors release liens, saying failure to do so would not only jeopardize the redevelopment but put the county's loans in even greater risk.

The other side: Supervisor Matt McCoy was the only no vote, calling the board's action irresponsible.

Flashback: Polk County's loans are tied with the mall's efforts to redevelop, assistance that Polk County Chairperson Angela Connolly described in 2018 as "unique."

  • A $1.5 million portion of the county loans is linked with a former Younkers site and will be repaid soon as part of a $120 million ice hockey arena, event center and hotel development agreement, Liz Holland, CEO of Merle Hay investors, told Axios this week.

What's ahead: Kohl's construction is expected next year.

  • The Buccaneers arena is expected to be open for the team's 2022-23 season.
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